The Italians who have Reclaimed Italian Crime Fiction

At one time, it seemed as though it was the exclusive reserve of English writers or, if I include the American Donna Leon, English-language writers, to write Italian detective fiction.  There was Michael Dibdin with his Aurelio Zen novels; Magdalen Nabb and her Marshal Guarnaccia books; and Timothy Williams and his series of stories involving Commissario Piero Trotti.  However, the landscape is now changing.

Perhaps belatedly, but Italian writers seem to have woken up to the fact that they are missing out on a good thing.  Everyone loves detective fiction.  Everyone loves Italy.  Put the two together and it does not take a genius to recognise that everyone loves Italian detective fiction.

And it is not just in print where the Italians are in the ascendancy: Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Salvo Montalbano series of books set on Sicily have become a staple of BBC4 Saturday evening TV, where once it would have been Rufus Sewell in the role of Aurelio Zen.

Also transferred to TV, in a production by Italian network RAI, is the latest series of books by author Maurizio de Giovanni called The Bastards of Pizzofalcone.  Similar in conception to other successful shows such as the Paris-based Engrenages (Spiral), the series centres around the workings of a tough police station––in this case set in Naples––and follows the investigations of Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono and a large team of police officers.  De Giovanni’s earlier series of crime books, featuring Commissario Ricciardi was also set in Naples, and have a strong sense of place.

Writers who have recently witnessed English translations of their works by publishers such as Europa Editions include Massimo Carlotto and his Mediterranean Noir ‘Alligator’ series; and Marco Vichi and his stories involving Inspector Bordelli.

Of all the current crop of writers, perhaps the most successful at reaching an international audience has been Michele Giuttari and his Florence-based detective Michele Ferrara.  Giuttari himself was head of the police force in Florence for almost a decade, and so is able to bring first-hand experience of battling Mafia bosses, organised crime and serial killers to his fictional works.

800 italian map and books

Lists, lists, lists

Detective fiction lends itself to series of novels and for completists of the genre, below are some lists of Italian fictional detectives––translated in English––and their titles:

Commissario Ricciardi

I Will Have Vengeance
Blood Curse
Everyone in their Place
The Day of the Dead
By my Hand
Bottom of your Heart
Glass Souls

Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono

The Crocodile
The Bastards of Pizzofalcone
Darkness for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone

Inspector de Vicenzi

The Murdered Banker
The Mystery of the Three Orchids
The Hotel of the Three Roses

Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara

A Florentine Death
A Death in Tuscany
The Death of a Mafia Don
A Death in Calabria
The Black Rose of Florence
The Dark Heart of Florence
Death under a Tuscan Sun

Marco Buratti

The Colombian Mule
The Master of Knots
For All the Gold in the World
The Gang of Lovers
Bandit Love

Leone Scamarcio

The American
The Extremist
The Hit
The Few

Inspector Bordelli

Death in August
Death and the Olive Grove
Death in Sardinia
Death in Florence
Death in the Tuscan Hills
Ghosts of the Past

Rocco Schiavone

A Cold Death
Black Run
Out of Season

© Fergus Longfellow


Fergus Longfellow takes a walk along the mean streets of Italy.

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